Google and Verizon, Act II

August 9, 2010

Today the other shoe dropped in the ongoing public discussion of what Verizon and Google were up to in their confidential negotiations.  Today the two companies posted an announcement of a policy framework document that they are offering as a basis for future Internet regulation.   (The document itself is available on Scribd, here.  You can read it, or download it as either a PDF or plain text file, if you are registered at Scribd [free] or have a Facebook login.)

The document itself has a number of provisions that, taken together, make it hard to envision exactly what is being proposed.  On one hand, the document’s provisions provide that broadband ISPs could not discriminate against any form of legal Internet content, and that traffic prioritization would be presumed to not be in compliance with the rule (although the presumption could be rebutted).  That would seem to be a point in favor of the net neutrality idea.  On the other hand, though, the document also says that ISPs could provide “Additional Online Services” that could receive different (presumably preferential) treatment:

A provider that offers a broadband Internet access service complying with the above principles could offer any other additional or differentiated services.  Such other services would have to be distinguishable in scope and purpose from broadband Internet access service, but could make use of or access Internet content, applications or services and could include traffic prioritization.

This seems to say that providers could provide a premium, parallel service to their existing high-speed offerings. I suppose this might cover the kind of arrangement using Google’s data centers in a box, hypothesized by Bob Cringely, that I discussed yesterday.

Another exception to the general principle of net neutrality is given to wireless services, which under the proposal would be exempt from any requirements except transparency.

Most of the initial reaction to these proposals has been less than enthusiastic.  There are articles summarizing some of the comments on the “Epicenter” blog at Wired, and at Ars Technica.   There is also an article at the New York Times.

One thing I do feel sure of: we have not come close to hearing the end of this discussion.


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